The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) published their annual report earlier this year. As well as dealing with data protection issues in the UK, it also gives the top 10 reasons for complaints made against marketing activities.
With 27% of complaints being about email, automated calls, live phone calls and SMS, and direct marketing businesses accounting for 14% of all complaints the question we have to ask is why are do so many people get it so wrong.
Part of the problem is that there is still an obsession with size. A dirty database in the thousands is still perceived to be better than a tightly targetted, recently verified one of modest proportions.
Next on the list of heinous crimes is thinking that it is OK to bombard the database with message after message. The logic of this is that although most people will delete or ignore you, a proportion of your list is bound to respond. Even with the weakest of messages this tactic will work for a while. The problem comes when the database has been misused so much that the supression list becomes as large as the remaining viable data.
But still it is addictive. Few are brave enough to resist the numbers game. Yet by sending out messages that mean nothing to the recipient the chances are that current and potential customers are being turned off before you even start to turn them on.
As soon as we hear the following sentence, our heart sinks:
“But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
And we know that there is every chance we will have a fight on our hands. While it is important to watch and listen to any client organisation, because sometimes the way they have always done something is pretty good, has been developed for a reason and gives benefit all round. Other times though, it is the surest sign of a moribund organisation where the status quo is given more credence than innovation.
This instant rejection of new ideas is known as the Semmelweis Effect, named after a Hungarian doctor, who in 1847 suggested that by washing their hands regularly maternity ward doctors could drastically reduce the mortality rate of mothers, something he had done himself. Such a simple idea and yet it was dismissed by the medical profession of the time out of hand.
While many businesses have been launched and succeeded because their founders came up against resistance to their ideas, many more have foundered because they can’t let go of the past and embrace fresh thinking. But without innovation and the frisson of excitement created by trying something new we would never evolve with our customers or generate new ones.